The Evolution

of

HAMILTON ORCHARDS

 

 (Sale Creek, Tennessee)

Soddy Daisy, TN

 

 

Rexford C. Alexander 

Dedicated

To

Every hand that helped make it what it was-a success.

Cover photo: 2007 aerial photo of the heart of Hamilton Orchards.  

No part of this material may be used unless written permission is granted.

© Copyright 2009 

Rexford C. Alexander

1730 Billingsley Road

Soddy Daisy, TN 37379

 

THE EVOLUTION OF HAMILTON ORCHARDS

(Sale Creek, Tennessee)

Soddy Daisy, TN

 

Research of the land has revealed the following.

 

OWNERS

1.    GOD       ..He created it

2.    Chickasaw, Creek, and Cherokee Indian Nations 

3.    1795..Stockley Donelson received land grants of more than 151,000 acres (23 square miles) from North Carolina although it still legally belonged to the Cherokees. Source: History of Hamilton County

4.    1809..Major James Cozby, Revolutionary War Veteran,  purchased the land.  It was then Rhea County.  Hamilton County History. 

5.    1819..Newly formed  Hamilton County (from Rhea County) included all land below the former Cherokee Territory line (south of Rhea County) to the Tennessee-Georgia state line. The Cherokee Indians had been bought out, cheated, or driven out.  Source: Historical Records of Hamilton County, TN

       6.    1834.. Heirs of James Cozby received title to the land after litigation due to a dispute over ownership. The other party is unknown but it is surmised that it was due to two countries giving grants to the same parcel to two individuals.

7.    No records exist of any sales until the 20th  century.

8.    1919.. Grover C. Eldridge acquired the land; no records exist pertaining to the type of acquisition. The actual acreage of the immediate farm at the home site is unknown and he acquired much more. The total acreage accumulated by Eldridge after initial ownership was no less than 800. During his ownership, it was named "Hamilton Orchards."  The postal address was Sale Creek, Tennessee.  

9.    1945..George W. Bagwell and William Fine purchased the "Hamilton Orchards" farm; they continued the berry industry. In 1955, after Bagwell failed to pay the IRS what was due it, foreclosure of the property was executed. Attorney Wilkes T. Thrasher, JR, and Lawrence M. Baker, became the executors to sell it. Mr. Fine, after going to court, won rights to a farm near the Tennessee River. The farm, at that time, consisted of approximately 240 acres. 

10.   July 9, 1957..William Hillery, Trustee of "Southern Freezing & Preserving Company", Dayton, TN, purchased  Hamilton Orchards"  at auction. The size of the property was now only 125 acres. No records reflect the sale or acquisition of the other 115 acres, which lies eastward of May Road. 

Note: Bowater's Land Company obtained the "missing" parcels by paying property taxes for seven years then filing a Quit-Claim Deed. No one challenged the action prior to the end of the seven year period-it became their property. This practice is perfectly legal.

11.   June 1964.. Mitchell Wright  purchased a small triangle of land (approximately ¼ acre) located at the eastern corner of Billingsley Road and southward of Lee Pike intersection from William Hillery  for $500.00

12.   March 31, 1966.. Mark D. and Roselyn G. Alexander. Purchased 124+ acres titled as  "Hamilton Orchards", Sale Creek, Tennessee  37373 from William Hillery. The postal address was later changed to 1712 Billingsley Road, Soddy Daisy, TN 37379. In 1977, the Alexander's built a new house-1708 Billingsley Road.

A. 1978.. Jimmy and Mary Gill purchased 4 + acres from the Alexander's. Their postal address was 1706 Billingsley Road, Soddy Daisy, TN

13.    April 21, 1983.. Mark M. & Lois C. Crandall purchased   approximately 110 acres from Mark and Roselyn Alexander. The Alexander's retained 5 acres of land including the old commissary. The title, "Hamilton Orchards" was passé and not attached as an identifier. The newly purchased Crandall postal address was 1712 Billingsley Road, Soddy Daisy, TN 37379.

14.   1984-85.. Mark & Lois Crandall purchased a strip of property from a parcel being deeded to Rexford & Carol Alexander. The area, totaling 1/10 of an acre, provided access from other property belonging to them to the 110 acres 

15.   September 10, 1997. Rexford C. & Carol P. Alexander received the deed from Mark D. & Roselyn G. Alexander for 4 acres+ after paying the agreed upon price of 1978. The postal address was 1730 Billingsley Road, Soddy Daisy, TN 37379-8202

16.   April, 1999... Rexford C. Alexander was designated as beneficiary of 1708 Billingsley Road in the Trust's established by Mark and Roselyn Alexander. The property provided a life estate for both unless relinquished. Mrs. Alexander died in 2000.

17.   2004..Mark Alexander traded Rexford C. Alexander  property he owned on Pendall Road to relinquish 1708 Billingsley Road and deed it to Mark's grandson, Rex Matthew Alexander.

18.   March 2009..Rex Matthew Alexander sold 1708 Billingsley Road to Mark and Lois Crandall.

19.   September 2009: Rexford C. Alexander of 1730 Billingsley Road is the only person who is familiar

       with the vast history of "Hamilton Orchards." In 1979, he rescued a box of 1919-1940 documents relating to the farm. Through the years he researched old deeds and maps which revealed a more thorough basis for this historical vignette.  

RESEARCHED FACTS OF THE FARM

          The property was created by God as part of the great North American Continent. The first inhabitants were wild beasts and birds. Indians of numerous tribes roamed the area until the 1700's when streams of immigrants arrived and pushed westward and southwards. Greed and total disregard of the Indians drove white men farther and farther into wilderness. Some were killed by the Indians; many of them killed Indians in defense or for pleasure.

 

          In the late 1700's, North Carolina issued huge land grants to individuals without having seen the property; they issued grants with the same number (#166), for the same property to two different individuals. The grants included land in future Hamilton County, TN- and the "farm".  In 1788, Stockley Donelson was given a grant of 640 acres; in 1795, a grant of 150,000 acres. It stretched from Richland Creek (now in Dayton, TN) southward to North Chickamauga Creek in Chattanooga, TN; the Tennessee River was the eastern border and Walden's Ridge was the western boundary.

 

Future Hamilton County (named after Alexander Hamilton) was originally part of Knox County-1796-1801. From 1801-1805, it was contained within newly formed Roane County; 1805-1819 Rhea County, and in 1819 it became Hamilton.

 

Major James Cozby, a Revolutionary War figure, gained the property in 1809. Possibly it was through a North Carolina grant or he purchased it. Whatever the means of procurement, two individuals claimed the property and it fell to the heirs to pursue legal means to gain clear title. In 1834, the "Heirs of James Cozby" won a judgment that made them sole owners of the property. Whether his former rank or his war service influenced the decision is not known but he was a celebrated figure in Hamilton County. In fact he was buried in Falling Water. No records are available indicating the property was sold; one can only assume that the Cozby's retained it until 1919.

  

The farm, as we know it, is roughly two miles due west of the Tennessee River; it features rolling hills, some fairly steep. The elevations range from 800-870 feet above sea level. The soil is not prime farm land; it is clay based with limestone gravels and stones possessing fissures and bubbles consistent with volcanic action. As many as three wagon roads are documented on the 125 acre plat; two more lead into it.

 

1919-1945

Time has erased the identities of the first white settlers who actually inhabited the farm; we do know that a log cabin rested on the site where Grover Eldridge made his home. This cabin was probably erected in the last half of the 1800's.

 

US Census's of 1910 have no Eldridge's living in Hamilton County; 1920 records confirm Grover lived here with his mother and siblings. They arrived between the two census years. Grover was born in 1894 and at age 26, began his farming enterprise. Receipts bearing his name authenticate orders and payments as far back as 1919.

 

The central farm rested in the "Ridges" near the predominately black settlement whose ancestors had been slaves. "Goodspeed's History of Tennessee" notes that after the Civil War, a former Hamilton County slave owner provided a place for them; he also gave them a church and cemetery. They and their descendants did what they knew-they farmed; they raised what they ate-crops and animals. They created their own little community; some recognizable names are: Major Swafford, Robinson, Roberson, Claude Martin, Worthington, Sambo and Junior Billingsley, Annie Lilliard, and Asa Mills. We must remember that many slaves had no surname; once free some chose the name of their former master or adopted one they liked.

 

They became a vital part of Eldridge's farming operation; they needed income and he was the key to it. Those who knew him shared no fondness; it has been said his integrity was questionable. I cannot cite specifics but his boss/worker relationship made him the winner; cheap labor made him rich. His overbearing behavior and language was remembered for many years.

 

Grover's farms incorporated so many different crops that he steadily employed workers within the entire Bakewell/Sale Creek area in the 20's, 30's, and 40's. During the summer of 1944, he employed an average of 28 men during May through September and 16 men during the other months.  With that labor force working 8-12 hours per day for .30 cents an hour, Grover built the farm into a thriving enterprise. During the Great Depression, the Eldridge Farm was about the only place work was available.

 

Old receipts revealed he purchased and planted large quantities of corn, cow peas, beans, Irish and sweet potatoes, strawberries, and more. He used large amounts fertilizer, and insecticide spray; with so many farm animals he used tons of corn, oats, and hay. Harness's, iron horse and mule shoes (some padded), as well as a lot of flat and round iron of different sizes were necessary for the blacksmith.

 

Grover married a Sale Creek School teacher, Georgia Rosenburg, who arrived here about the same time as he gained ownership of the farm. He married the Sale Creek School teacher in the 1920's; he always referred to her as "Mother." It may have been at that time they chose "Hamilton Farms" as the official name of the farm. In addition to that identity, a label glued to the ends of berry crates bore the name "River-Side Fruit Farms" and the artwork showed a likeness of their house.

An Historic Farm

 

After my military career, I worked for the Chattanooga Housing Authority. I met and became friends with Clarence "Junior" Billingsley, the road I live on was named after his father. Jr. recounted how he and the Eldridge's son, Sonny, drove a team of mules to the back fields with water for the workers. Jr. was older but they enjoyed each other's company. Sonny died very young with a leg infection; Jr. was really sad to lose his friend. Junior remembered the days with joy and sadness.  By the way, Junior was black.

I have always been intrigued by the fact that in the 1930's a little white boy, who may or may not have seen color as an issue, was friends with a black boy who was a descendant of slaves. But-the white boy's mother was a biased woman! She, in the status of a school teacher, failed my father and two of his brothers because their father was a minister of the unpopular "Church of God" in Sale Creek. Using an academic establishment as a platform for personal bias doesn't enhance one's integrity; that is but one of many instances of the arrogance and ignorance of Sale Creek School's faculty. Did you notice I did not refer to them as "educators?"    

Eldridge had a wooden, lap sided, three-bedroom house constructed around the log cabin. Rectangular limestone rocks were hauled in from an unknown quarry; they were used as underpinning of the house, flower bed borders, and stepping stones for paths. It boasted of two fireplaces; one in the cabin area (later removed) and the other in the living room. A flue was constructed for a cast iron kitchen stove. Water was provided from a large cistern with a hand-operated pump prior to electricity being made available in the rural area. Naturally, the outhouse was the standard restroom facility.

 

A storage building and cellar were constructed near the main house. The cellar kept milk and butter cool; two chicken houses and their

occupant's provided plenty of fresh eggs. Brick masons built a huge commissary near the house; it contained salt cured meat, beans, potatoes, flour, meal, coffee, sugar, and other staple items plus overalls, shirts, and cheap shoes, etc. Workers could purchase the goods at the store price in lieu of being paid in dollars and cents. It was equipped with scales and cash register. In cold weather, a pot-bellied stove was a place to warm hands-briefly.

A huge barn with gambrel roof was constructed for hay storage; the uprights and horizontal beams were/are cedar trees. The hay was cut, dried, and hauled in by team and wagon.  The wagon was backed into the mouth of the barn and a large set of hay-hooks on a trolley were pulled over the wagon bed. Ropes were pulled to raise the hooks like giant claws; after the hooks were lowered down to the wagon another rope was

yanked thereby releasing the hooks. They grasped a large load; the hooks were then hoisted upward and pulled on the trolley to the place where the hay was to be dropped-then released.

There were no less than three more barns, a corncrib, a blacksmith shop, grease shed, tool shed, and a large potato house. The barns housed the work mules, work horses, and seeds. Grover always had mules for sale; and horses were used for transportation until cars and trucks became available. He even had railroad cars filled with wild horses from the western states brought in; he would have them broken to cultivating equipment and wagon. They were always for sale-if the profit was large enough.  Numerous ponds were dug and utilized for watering the stock.

 

The smell of sulfur and the ringing of a hammer on hot steel told everyone that the blacksmith shop was active. The "smithy" fabricated clevises, pins, or anything the farm needed; repairs of farm equipment were never-ending. His forge, hammer, tongs, vise, coal, bellows, open air wall, and a lot of steel and iron were indispensable but they were useless unless one knew how to use them.

The potato house was another large block structure; it was built to keep sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes from freezing. The loft/attic and interior walls were sealed with sheetrock to hold the heat in. Two floors were built above a furnace; the floors were not solid but had 1 ¼ "-1 ½ " openings between each slat to allow heat to rise. Potatoes were a hot commodity.

Receipts and annotations reveal that he purchased a new Ford Touring car with de-mountable rims and a starter. Later he drove the expensive cars like the "Essex", "Terraplane." For transporting freight from the railroad or cattle and horses he purchased a new "Reo" truck. Willy Higdon was his driver for many years. Modern conveyances such as cars and trucks necessitated the construction of a "grease rack" which I used into the 1970's & 80's; it was appropriately located near the grease shed of old. Why he chose to locate the garage, complete with concrete floor, across the road from his house (north of Billingsley Road at the curve) is anyone's guess. It would, however, have been practical since batteries were prone to fail; coasting down-hill using the clutch and shifter to start an old "fliver" certainly beat pushing it by hand.     

In elevations such as the house site, digging a well was often fruitless. Water may not be struck for 200 feet and modern drilling was primitive. So, rainwater was used for man and beast. A large, round hole about 25 feet deep and 14-16 feet in diameter was dug in the ground-by mule team then shovel. A concrete floor was poured; a round concrete wall was then poured and sealed to insure the structure was watertight to ground level. Pipes were installed at the building gutters to channel the water into pipes leading to the cistern. A concrete top was poured leaving a square opening in the center for a windlass or rope and bucket access. Hand pumps were used to pump cistern water into the home. If you have never tasted cistern water-don't! 

There were no less than three (3) small houses on the property; tenants or owners lived in them. They were approximately 26 feet wide by 30 feet long with two entrance doors, 6 windows, and had tongue and groove walls and floors. One is now a storage building belonging to Jimmy and Mary Gill.

The second one was uninhabitable in 1978 and demolished for the construction of my house at 1730 Billingsley Road; ironically, my great-uncle, Ben Alexander and his family, lived in it in the 1930's. It was also home for the Fine's in the '40's and Yearwood families in the '50's. The house's cistern was capped and is now under our home.

The third house stood east of the commissary; it was torn down board by board and reconstructed. It became my barn in 1980-and is still standing. The house's sills, studs, rafters, and joists were oak; when my father and I built it back, I had to drill every hole for every nail drove in it. I also learned that carbide-tipped circular saw blades were worth every cent. Sixty year old oak is seasoned-and hard.

Another interesting fact that many locals don't know is that during World War II, German Prisoner's of War (POW's) were incarcerated in the USA. They were scattered but some were sent to the military base at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. Moreover, although not an official camp, there was a POW stockade in Sale Creek, TN. A large wire-enclosed area between the railroad and Welsh Cemetery was constructed. It housed captured German soldiers and US Army guards.

Somehow, Grover gained access to the Georgia POW's. In 1944, Willy Higdon drove trucks to Fort Oglethorpe and brought prisoners back to pick peaches; they were also brought to the Sale Creek camp then transported to the Eldridge farm. I'm sure they were glad for the respite and it was extremely cheap labor for Eldridge. It was also known, within a small circle, that they were sometimes housed in the "Long Hungry." This was a rectangular building which was positioned north-south, atop a rolling hill on what is now my property. For a short time, they were here and Eldridge had the most peaches picked that year.

Grover also constructed a shed beside the railroad to process the peaces for shipping by rail. The peaches were hauled to the Sale Creek shed where they were de-fuzzed, graded, boxed, and loaded into refrigerated cars for large distribution. The culls, less than Grade A, were sold to buyers from Kentucky; they were hauled by freight cars or trucks to distilleries and transformed into alcoholic spirits.   The photo above is a peach basket cap tool.                                                                                        

Peaches were king for only 2-3 years; hard freezes killed the fruit. Peach trees became firewood and the race to become the dominant strawberry king had already begun several years prior. Again, the crop required many workers, not just picking but planting, cultivating, and weeding-all back breaking work. Motorized conveyances were few; feet were the primary mode of transportation. In other words, folks walked to the Eldridge farm to work; it was often the only place to make a few cents per hour-especially during the Great Depression.

During the 1920's-'30's, the local populace walked 5 miles (one way) to work here. Until the mid-1930's, there were two iron bridges across Sale Creek. Both were on Patterson Road; one crossed onto the old Aslinger place and the other east of Price Point just south of Brown's Bridge. After construction of the Chickamauga Dam the trek was longer but necessary.

Records were kept of all workers; when they picked peaches or strawberries a ticket was punched to record their earnings. Eldridge paid .01 cent per cup of berries-but, it was work.       Refrigerated rail cars were the primary mode of transfer to America. Owners of small, private berry patches brought their fruit to the loading area at the railroad; each was given their ticket bearing the names, quantities, and common name of the berry. They were paid by the person who established the contract for shipment; the name, E.N. Keith, was the most prominent contractor.

 

Grover Eldridge created a large, thriving, and profitable farm. He

carved success out of pure insight, hope, chance, or luck. Documents I rescued revealed that he got multiple loans of $500.00 for two years from Savings & Loans, Soddy Bank, Graysville Bank, and two individuals from Sale Creek. He must have known how to operate within the system; buy low and sell high as well as "cheap labor" means more profit. Who took the largest gamble-him or the banks?  Ironically, the 1929 head cashier of the Soddy Bank, W. H. Crow, gave Grover glowing references; after the stock market crashed later that year the cashier, W. H. Crow, emptied the bank vault and "flew the coop" so to speak.

Whatever Grover's business practices were, he made a huge profit from his empire (?) and moved to Florida where he entered into the lucrative orange business.  He died July 1980 at the age of 87; at age 85, Georgia passed away in December of 1981. Each owner after him sought success in different venues and some attained their goals. Nothing before or after his tenure has equaled his vision or success.

                                                                           

  

1945

George W. Bagwell and William Fine purchased the "Hamilton Orchards" farm from Grover Eldridge.  Bagwell furnished the financial portion and Mr. Fine furnished the know-how to run a farm. They continued the berry industry; it was a successful venture until 1955 when the IRS found that Mr. Bagwell had failed to pay Uncle Sam his proper portion of income tax-the second time. Foreclosure of the property was executed. Attorney Wilkes T. Thrasher, JR, and Lawrence M. Baker, became the executors of "Hamilton Farms"; their duty was to sell it and recover what they could. That left Mr. Fine holding the bag-with nothing in it. He went to court to plead his case; he had invested 10 years of his time, experience, and labor into the partnership. The court ruled in his favor and he was awarded farm land near the river. Hamilton Orchards, at that time, consisted of approximately 240 acres.

1957-1966

On July 9, 1957, William Hillery, acting on behalf of "Southern Freezing & Preserving Company", Dayton, TN, purchased "Hamilton Orchards"  at auction. The size of the property was now only 125 acres. No records reflect the sale or acquisition of the other 115 acres, which lie eastward of May Road but Bowater's Land Company obtained them 

In June 1964, Hillery sold a small triangle of land (approximately ¼ acre) located at the eastern corner of Billingsley Road and southward of Lee Pike intersection to Mitchel Wright for $500.00. Apparently, strawberry crops were the primary product on the farm from 1957 until 1966.

************************************************************************

1966

On March 31, 1966, Hillery sold the 125 acre "Hamilton Orchards" property in Sale Creek to Mark D. and Roselyn G. Alexander. Ironically, they now owned the very farm where Mark and his father had picked berries in the early 1930's.  The Alexander's moved into the original house and set up house-keeping.

On May 10, 1969, while the Alexander's were at church, the aged house burned to the ground; fire consumed everything they owned except the clothes on their backs. After cleaning the area, they purchased a large mobile home and lived in it until 1977; they had a new house built across the entrance road where a chicken house once thrived. This was 1708 Billingsley Road.

Prior to their purchase, many buildings had not been maintained and were safety hazards or of no use; the grease shed, tool shed, remnants of an old dilapidated barn, a mule barn giving way to age, and leaning outhouses were torn down and burned. Ponds were dug deeper and cleaned; the big barn was also repaired to acceptable standards. A lone, low, wooded area contained two springs and a stand of pine and hardwood trees. Alexander hired a pulp wood company to harvest the pines. New barbed wire fencing was installed around the entire perimeter of his property as well as all cross fences. Wooden gates were replaced with steel pipe gates.

          Hamilton Orchards was a treasure trove of trash from yesteryear, in other words-junk. Wagon parts, old mule-drawn cultivators, plows, sprayers, ancient fertilizer, 55 gallon cans, 5 gallon cans (for preserves, etc), and thousands of 1945-55 strawberry crates and cups. The blacksmith shop did yield the old tongs, poker, hammer, and many crude, hand-made items that the "smithy" had fashioned.

Even after 70 years, you could still find bent nails or broken glass in the road or around trees. In 1979, while cutting down a 16" diameter elm tree with a chain saw, the chain suddenly threw showers of sparks and stopped cutting. After installing a new chain and removing the section of the tree, a steel tie rod from an old vehicle was found imbedded near the heart. 

Hamilton Orchards

 

After the purchase, the Alexander's began a registered Angus beef cattle operation; gradually it changed to Hereford's. Even with adequate feed and hay, severe winter weather took its toll on the herd and money was lost. After a few years, cattle changed to registered Tennessee Walking Horses. The purchase of a son of a World Grand Champion stud and mares with equally impressive pedigrees was the beginning of 27 years in the expensive equine business.

After their oldest son retired from the Air Force, they formed the "Rockin' A Ranch." Although not an outwardly high-visibility operation; they did it all- breeding, foaling, and training to the 2-year old stage. One Alexander colt attained the stature of World Grand Champion Stallion Reserve (#2 in the World); two more attained elevated status in the Walking Horse industry. During the last 10 years of their equine venture, they brought in top-bred Spotted Saddle Horses and raised double and triple registered horses.

One highlight of Mark Alexander's horse business was to donate Ebony's Lookout, a three-year old black stallion with $25,000 of show ring training, to the Chattanooga Police Department. He was the primary "Flag" horse for funerals and opening the Chattanooga Lookouts baseball games.  They finally disbanded their expensive venture in 1998; Mark had another dream go up in smoke.

For most of those years, Mr. Alexander also found the area to favor the honey industry; he had as many as 30 bee hives. Cold weather and a devastating moth took its toll on his colonies. He spent hours harvesting and processing the sweet nectar-he never made enough to pay for the supplies.

In the late 1960's, a conflict between the Alexander's and the local Sale Creek US Mail carrier caused the property to be changed to a different zip code. The postal address was changed to 1712 Billingsley Road, Soddy Daisy, TN 37379. The newly built home (1977) became 1708 Billingsley Road. In 1978, the Alexander's sold 4 acres+ to Jimmy and Mary Gill. Their postal address was 1706 Billingsley Road, Soddy Daisy, TN 37379.

No longer physically able to properly care for large acreage, on April 21, 1983 the Alexander's sold approximately 110 acres to Mark & Lois Crandall. The title, "Hamilton Orchards" was now passé and not attached as an identifier. Crandall's assumed the 1712 Billingsley Road address; Alexander's of 1708 retained 5 acres including the commissary. Approximately 9-10 acres had been originally set aside for purchase by Rexford C. and Carol P. Alexander. Mark Alexander reduced it to 4+ acres. Within a few years, Crandall's acquired other adjacent acreage; in order to access both properties; a strip of land totaling 1/10th of an acre was sold to them from Rexford's property. 

After paying for the property and house in full, on September 10, 1997, Rexford C. & Carol P. Alexander received the deed from Mark D. & Roselyn G. Alexander for 4 + acres. The Rexford C. Alexander's made steady improvements to all of the property and raised registered Tennessee Walking Horses and Spotted Saddle Horses until 1998. Their postal address was 1730 Billingsley Road, Soddy Daisy, TN 37379-8202

In April of 1999, Rexford C. Alexander was designated as executor of 1708 Billingsley Road in the trust's established by Mark and Roselyn Alexander. He was beneficiary of the property but life estate for both parents were stipulated-unless relinquished. Mrs. Alexander died in 2000.

In 2004, Mark Alexander traded Rexford C. Alexander  property he owned on Pendall Road to relinquish 1708 Billingsley Road and deed it to Mark's grandson, Rex Matthew Alexander. Reluctantly, he did so. Mark Alexander's health deteriorated in early 2009; he moved into the home of Rex and Carol Alexander.  Rex Matthew Alexander sold 1708 Billingsley Road to Mark and Lois Crandall in March 2009; Mark Alexander died June 26, 2009. The Crandall's then sold the property, excluding the commissary, to Lew and Marita Thacher.

Forty-three years after Alexander's first became owners of Hamilton Orchards only Rexford and Carol Alexander remain. Rexford, being a local native, history researcher, and property owner appreciates the role iconic Hamilton Orchards has played in the formation, stability, and  growth of  the county for which it was named. 

Farming, for which the farm was best known, is now a thing of the past. After being cultivated for over half century, it is now utilized for pasture and hay; it has paid its dues. From being part of 151,000 acres, 20,000, 240, 125, to 110 it is worth more now than ever before in terms of dollars.

Its rich history is worth much more than money. All of mankind who labored here, the hundreds of animals who passed by, the German POW's, the owners, and the tenants could tell you many stories of this enterprise. The blisters, sweat, tears, dust, insecticide spray, and wind-swept fragrance of peach blossoms or rotting fruit paints a picture which could only be viewed by those who walked or rode among these rolling hills.

We only have a few documents bearing names of those who helped make Hamilton Orchards, Riverside Fruit Farms, or Rockin' "A" Ranch a reality. They are but memories and so shall we be in time. This biographical sketch is not dedicated to the owners but rather to those who toiled and made it what it was; without their hard labor the owners would have failed. Without sacrifice of that other than money, it is just a piece of land.

Rexford C. Alexander
September 2009

 

  

  

   

 

Grover E. Eldridge

B. August 30, 1893

D. July 1980, FL

Son of Jack  and Eliza Eldridge

Georgia Rosenburg Eldridge

B. July 18, 1896

D. December 1981  FL

Sale Creek (TN) School teacher 1919-1945 

Since my parents purchased the farm in 1966, I toiled thousands of hours on Hamilton Orchards. I worked during each military leave for 12 years; after retirement it was never-ending. I planted and cut down trees; I tore down old buildings and repaired, altered, and constructed others. I bush-hogged almost every acre of the farm; fences and gates required constant repair or replacement. I have hauled and stacked countess bales of hay

I hauled and treated hundreds of heads of cattle. I have worked horses until 10 PM on cold nights, spent 13 nights in the barn awaiting foals, and accomplished veterinarian work by flashlight. I have euthanized sick horses and buried those struck by lightning.

I contributed greatly to this farm through personal finances, blood, and sweat. I never earned a dime in wages; I worked harder than wage earners just to help my parents. I was the mechanic, plumber, carpenter, electrician, driver, veterinarian, and master engineer until physical disabilities overcame me in 1998. Even after surgery I continued to work there disregarding my limitations. 

I rode 130 miles in a horse trailer on a hot July day to prevent injury to young stallion sired by a world champion horse.